Taxing Debate

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District Four supervisor Joe Norwood opened the door to what turned into a debate on the property taxes paid by Lauderdale County voters at the board's regular meeting Monday.

"I've heard my colleague, Mr. Boswell, make mention to this on a couple of occasions, that this county raised taxes by $1.8 million but you guys disagree and I would like for Rex to offer us an explanation on whether this county did or did not raise taxes last year. I was not on the board and I'm interested in finding out," said Norwood.

County administrator Rex Hiatt confirmed that, for most people, taxes did indeed go up but it wasn't the board's doing.

"The reason it increased is that the assessed valuation of county property went up and we had a reappraisal of county property," said Hiatt. "In that budget process, you adjusted millage downward in several accounts to try to offset that."

But supervisor Ray Boswell said it didn't go down far enough.

"And this board had the option to lower more millage to take care of the increase had they wanted to," said Boswell. "They could have done that. The board chose not to."

Board president Craig Hitt defended the decision by asking whether proper county services could have been provided to the taxpayers without additional money.

Supervisor Jimmie Smith said the board could have reduced the millage more.

"We had the authority. But the question is whether that had been prudent or not and I don't think it would have been prudent," said Smith.

The subject could surface again soon. Budget meetings for Fiscal 2004 start as early as July.